The great Jamaican reggae singer Jimmy Cliff composed many memorable songs relating to the reality of everyday life in the world today.
One which is most relevant to the current global situation is entitled “Suffering in the Land”. Whether one looks at the flooding catastrophe in Pakistan or Sudan, the alarming rate of the melting of the massive ice sheets at the two polar extremities, drought and wild fires in Europe and the USA, the result is the same.
While all these are lumped as natural disasters there is now undisputed evidence that they are the direct result of human activity.
Another deadly form of human activity, war, is also the cause of tremendous human suffering in Europe, either directly in the Ukraine or its spill-over effects in the rest of that continent.
Those “spill-over effects” are proving to cause great human suffering, increasing poverty, hunger and even starvation in countries far removed from the war theatre.
Before the war there was already a global crisis, causing food shortages and driving up prices especially in the field of energy. These in turn are having a multiplier effect with which small poor countries like ours are having great difficulty to cope.
The reality is that we are victims of the dominant global economic system, under which the profit-making motive is the primary incentive.
It is not by chance that in the midst of the evidence of a tremendous increase in poverty and suffering caused by the ever-rising cost of living, more and more global multinational companies, especially in the energy field, but also in food manufacturing and distribution, are reporting record profits. The connection is not hard to deduce.
Governments in countries, large and small, are coming under pressure to take measures to prevent more and more of their citizens from falling through the widening poverty cracks.
Some have been responding in the form of lowering taxes and other charges, providing subsidies and other measures. Sadly, the capacity of small countries like ours to provide such support is limited though it is clear that every helpful measure is needed.
This is even more so in our own country given our recent experiences of natural disasters including the volcanic eruptions. The negative effect of these on our economy cannot be ignored by political rhetoric and try as government may, its capacity to provide adequate support to suffering citizens is limited. This cannot be by any means an excuse not to try and do more, but we cannot throw out the baby with the bath water.
In addition to governmental initiatives which we urge, it is also vital that we try to educate our citizens more about the nature of the problems facing us and what they can do at an individual or household level.
Consumer education about choices, reducing reliance on imports and measures not only to increase local food production but to keep a lid on cost of production are all necessary. Citizens must also be educated about controlling unnecessary expenses.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs must play a far more active role in the crisis and government must clamp down on price gouging.
There is clearly room for an active Consumers’ Association for in this struggle, we are all victims so, as the saying goes, “one hand can’t clap”, we have a joint responsibility.